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Jan 26

The gift of breastfeeding

Posted on January 26, 2019 at 12:40 PM by Katie Combs Prichard

This first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week. Didn’t know there was a week for that? Now you do! The theme of the week is “Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life,” and it aims to educate parents about the advantages of deciding to breastfeed, both for babies and mothers.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond. The science is established and fairly well-known, at this point — breastfeeding provides health benefits to infants such as nutrients and antibodies; a reduced risk of conditions such as asthma and obesity; as well as a lower risk of SIDS. It’s also free, and the skin-to-skin contact is good bonding time with your newborn.

What can be more difficult to overcome are other challenges that new mothers can face: from issues with supply or latching to social stigma and problems fitting in feeds and pumping with busy work schedules.

Reaching out for support early and often can help new moms face these challenges head on. It doesn’t always come naturally: It takes time and practice. At the county we offer services to low-income mothers through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, including 1:1 lactation consultations and breastfeeding peer counseling support. Check with your insurance provider to see what benefits may be offered.

Getting consistent, non-judgmental support from a lactation consultant can help you get into a routine and plan for the future. Going back to work can be a tough transition for mom and baby, but a consultant can help you talk through your options and navigate conversations with your employer if necessary. Here in California, employers are required to provide break time and space for employees to express breast milk for their infant.

It can also be comforting to connect with other moms and know you’re not alone in the experience. Some programs like WIC can connect you with a peer counselor. This is someone who has walked the walk — a mom who can share her own experience and encouragement with you. Or, there are breastfeeding mom group meetings. And don’t be afraid to speak up when you need more support at home from your partner and family network.

One of our peer counselors here at Placer County, Aurora Kopp, works with moms and shares her own experience with her firstborn son, who was born premature and had a hard time latching at first.

“Get the help you need right away so that you can achieve your goal, and just stay focused,” she said. “It’s not always easy but if you know it’s what you want to do, you give it your all.”

Dr. Rob, Robert Oldham, is Placer County’s public health officer and lives in Roseville. Contact his office at (530-889-7141.